/ 13 January 2013

Cosatu: Western Cape farm protests to intensify

Wage disputes have turned into violent protests that are spreading throughout the Western Cape’s agricultural areas
Wage disputes have turned into violent protests that are spreading throughout the Western Cape’s agricultural areas

"The farmworkers have taken a decision to intensify the strike, because the farmers are not serious about the negotiations to find a solution," said Congress of South African Trade Union Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich on Sunday.

"Some farmers have indicated their willingness to increase above R100, but a number of bad farmers are opposing this," he added.

The farmworkers were also rejecting a call made by the ANC for them to suspend the strike.

"This is not political …. This strike can only be called off by workers and they have said it will continue until a living wage is paid," said Ehrenreich

Negotiations with some farmers had shown progress, he said, adding that if agreements were reached with farmers in particular areas, the strike would end in those areas.

Calls for intervention
He said farmworkers were calling on Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and President Jacob Zuma to intervene in the strike.

Farmworkers went on strike last year in demand of an increase in their daily wage from R69 to R150, and a coherent land reform programme. The strike was suspended in December, but resumed on Wednesday.

During the often violent strike, farmworkers have barricaded roads, stoned motorists and burnt property belonging to the farms.

Farmworkers were calling on retailers to boycott the "bad farmers" who did not want to heed their demands, said Ehrenreich.

"Cosatu is calling on its members … not to handle the fruit and not to load any fruit onto the ships for export," he said.

"There has also been a call from workers for the food and fruit processing plants to also come and join the protest action."

Ehrenreich said workers were willing to suspend the strike "should government come to the party" on Monday.

Quietened down
Meanwhile, police said there situation was quiet on Sunday, with no violent protests reported.

"We are still keeping a huge police presence in all the affected areas to monitor the situation," said Warrant Officer November Filander.

A total of 125 people have been arrested since the beginning of the strike, mainly for public violence. – Sapa